Iceland and its charm have been well documented and numerous amazing photographs appear online every couple of weeks but its truelly a place that needs to be experienced to fully comprehend how incredible it is. And how weird! Iceland feels like a country of extreme contrasts, from the moment you leave the airport and arrive in the capital Reykjavik the eyes are pulled between the alien landscape and the harsh industrial units which line the dual carriage way. Reykjavik itself is a quite unassuming place, nestled on the coast with some incredible views across the water to majestic mountain ranges, it seems to be a delicate balancing act between the urban and the wild.
Being there in the middle of the year meant we were in for some light days but I don't think any of us were prepared for the midnight walk home in broad day light, something which I have to admit became a little disorientating after a week, is it bed time yet, no can't be its still light out side! Although it did take the edge of those late drives home after days out to see some of the major tourist sites, waterfalls that emit rainbows and volcanic geysers, the usual stuff.
I had a fair idea about what to expect and some of those expectations were met but others were blown out of the water. Seeing the sheer vastness of the sprawling mountain ranges and land, off set by a few small farm houses gives a real feeling of insignificance, if we all died tomorrow then the landscape would just continue to be as it has and will be for hundreds of thousands years to come. Ah the beauty of wild untamed nature. On a trip full of increidble sights and adventures there's a few moments that really stand out for me so ill share them here.
The first being a short hike to the oldest hot spring swimming pool in Iceland. Located a 20 minute hike from a dirt track you find yourself walking into a small valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. After traversing streams and slippy rocks you come to a small pool with 2 changing huts, neither designated for male or female, just rooms to leave your clothes in (we discovered at the outdoor pool in Reykjavik that no one covers up when they are getting changed, quite alarming for us Scottish prudes!). We slipped into the luke warm pool and instantly felt the slime on our feet, which having enjoyed many a river swim back home didn't phase us. It wasn't until we edged our way closer to the hot water pipe that the beauty and heat started to kick in! Looking up to the moody rocks covered in a low mist from our warm pool was weird and wonderful. We visited another outdoor hot pool which was a lot fancier but the rustic feel and charm of the original pool made it a winner.
The black sands of Vik is truelly one of the coolest things I've seen. More pebbles than sand, the beach is just a heaving lump of black doom, crashing waves and white water off set the black hues which seemed to stretch up to the sky on our visit. I got the impression that Iceland looks incredible regardless of the weather but I think seeing glorious sunshine over those black rocks might not have been as atmospheric as the gray hazy skies we experienced. The rocky steeples just off the coastline also made me think about The Goonies film, I kept waiting to see One Eyed Willies ship appear on the horizon as it makes it way out to sea. Vik is certainly a place which creates its own atmosphere and its palpable in the air, definitley worth a visit if you can.
The final tale I'd like to share didn't so much involve the landscape although a mountain range did play a part. Before we flew in I'd noticed a post on instagram by a talented artist called Amok Island. Working in quite a bold graphic style his murals of local marine life always stand out and his little Icelandic Brown Trout piece was on our hit list to find. But a few google searches revealed what a needle in a haystack that would be. So although I was keeping an eye out up front we didn't hold much hope of finding the piece. On the drive back from Vik we almost had an accident, a stray sheep dog jumped out at the car giving Stu a fright, I didn't see him as I was looking the other way but it made us slow down a little and wonder if we should go back and check the dog was ok. Taking a moment to figure out what to do I started to notice the mountain range in the distance, it somehow looked familiar. I checked the screen grab from instagram and I was convinced it was the same view from Amoks mural. So we drove back and the dog was still trying to attack cars! We managed to get him over into the farmers yard and had a chat with the young lad about it, work dogs don't seem to matter very much sadly. But sure enough just over the other side and out of sight from the road we found the mural! The combination of factors which brought us to it made me think it was meant to be! Either way we were both stoked to see it in the flesh but we both left feeling sad for the poor farm dog.
Anyways you can check out some snaps below, some from the DSLr and some just from the iPhone. Part 1 really just looks at the countryside and landscape of Iceland but for part 2 ill be sharing some snaps from Reykjavik and a few stories about the ATP experience. I wanna go back!